In a world that can be tailored to fit an individual’s needs at the click of a button, it is not surprising that customization is king. In a field such as 3D printing, the appeal of custom products draws people in. Though it promises mass customization in a variety of sectors, it often comes at an additional premium and is limited in terms of materials.
In 2015, a study by Deloitte found that consumers are willing to pay extra for custom products. I have a newsflash for you: that ship has sailed, leaving in its wake the expectation of customization without the added cost.
The world spins faster and faster and the next generation consumer will not know the term mass customization at all. For them, customization will be a given and it will become the norm in all product categories. If 3D printing wants to step up to the plate, it needs to adapt when it comes down to costs, materials and speed.
The same challenge is not only applicable to products, but services as well. I recently stayed at a hotel in Palm Springs and while trying to connect to the hotel’s wifi, it prompted me with banner that read “24 hour internet for $29.95.” My head was spinning between anger and disillusionment. Where do you go nowadays where the internet is a not a given, just being part of the service? Starbucks was not the first to provide free internet for its customers, but it certainly is the most notable. In short sighted business acumen, the faster you get your customers out, the faster you can serve the next customer. In this case, better service leads to happier customers, which in the end lead to better business results.
But what is the solution?
- Do not design your product or service to match current trends. Instead, think ahead. Where do you think 3D printing will be in the next five years, or, better yet, think about your adaptation plan and company culture. Are you flexible enough to handle the changing times?
- Start with the customer experience. I visit a lot of 3D printing events and the chatter I hear is heavily focused on who has the shiniest surface or finer layers than the competitor. But ultimately, the consumer doesn’t care. The product needs to start by taking them on an enchanting and engaging journey, regardless how it looks or how it was made.
For reference, here is a project by Coca Cola:
In 2014, Coca Cola focused on an experiential campaign, reaching millions of consumers with a unique design of their glass bottles for the same price as the original. At the heart of the campaign, the focus was on giving consumers a custom product that was unique.
What is important to realize—and to the disappointment of all engineers—is that the consumer doesn’t have the slightest idea that HP Indigo digital press played a critical role in making all of this possible. All they care about is the experience.
The world will never progress in a linear path, it will be disrupted in the most interesting and challenging ways, working to disrupt the status quo. But what is certain is that we will take most things for granted such as the internet or product customization. Businesses have to strive for a better service and experience than their predecessors. What do you currently charge a premium for that your customer thinks should be standard? What could you innovate to the next level that would truly be worth a premium price?